The World After Game 5 by Matthew Miranda

images-13I planned to write about the death of the death of loyalty today.

I planned to start with Darryl Strawberry going to the Dodgers and what that felt like to a kid who idolized Darryl Strawberry, then write about the Knicks brave new universe of finally winning a playoff series. And I planned to write about the mix of emotions that would bring, because this was a team built on disloyalty–organizational disloyalty. Top on down.

I planned to write about how coach Mike Woodson only got the job after agreeing to fire his long-time agent, simply because Knicks owner James Dolan doesn’t like Larry Brown, and Woodson’s long-time agent was also Larry Brown’s agent. But Dolan said “jump” and Woodson said “How high?” and it was pretty low. And now these men pilot the organization.

I planned to write about how a couple years ago New Yorkers (and fans elsewhere) called LeBron a yellow-bellied darkheart for being disloyal to his (non-)hometown team, and how the Knicks picked themselves up after losing out on the King and built a fun team, a team worth watching, a flawed team but a team you could be proud of, which hadn’t been the case at the Garden for a decade.

I planned to write about how this new era was ushered in by paying Amar’e Stoudemire every last dollar to get him to come here, how STAT’s lifelong team offering $60,000,000 wasn’t loyalty enough.

I planned to write about how the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony, even though the guys they were trading away were all vocal about their loyalty to the Knicks, vocal about not wanting to play anywhere else. Carmelo would only come if the Knicks traded half away their team and gave him every last dollar under the old CBA, too. Danilo Gallinari wanted to stay; Raymond Felton wanted to stay; Wilson Chandler wanted to stay; Timofey Mozgov wanted to stay. The Knicks made the trade. Au revoir, loyalists.

I planned to write about fans and pundits patting the Knicks on the back this week for having Raymond Felton at PG instead of Jeremy Whatshisname, which is the most repugnant form of doublethink. The Knicks didn’t replace Lin with Felton because they thought Felton was better. The Knicks dream was Lin and Steve Nash at the point. The only mention of Felton then was as the backup plan to Nash, bringing Felton in as Lin’s back-up. The only reason the Knicks PG situation worked out so well this year is their dream scenario never materialized: Nash went to LA, and Dolan, enraged that Lin tested the marketplace after the Knicks told him to test the marketplace, threw a lucky-sperm disloyalty tantrum and told Jeremy he didn’t want to play with him anymore. Dolan, who has screwed more New Yorkers than Son of Sam, Michael Jordan and Hurricane Sandy combined.

But, the Knicks lost last night. So instead, I’m writing about Mike Woodson.

Here’s what I know about Mike Woodson:

He was brought to the Knicks to be Mike D’Antoni’s “defensive coordinator,” supposedly because D’Antoni’s system would never succeed, despite having succeeded in Phoenix. “The Suns never won a title playing that way,” people moaned. “They never even reached the Finals!” As if the Knicks, who’ve been to 2 Finals in 40 years, set the bar as high as “Finals-or-Bust.” As if bringing in a coach who’s never gotten past the 2ndround was the answer.

The Knicks still run D’Antoni’s offense, essentially. They space the floor and shoot a ton of 3s, they don’t fast break but they run enough to create cross-matches,which combined with their spacing leads to prolific offensive play. Carmelo’s shooting the same high number and percentage of 3s he did when he first came to NY and played for D’Antoni.

The Knicks defensive ranking has slipped since Woodson, the supposed defensive coordinator, took over. Two years ago, they were top 5 in defensive rating; under Woodson, they’ve slipped closer to the middle of the pack.

I cannot count the number of times this year Woodson talked openly about “I can’t be playing ________ __________ so much; I can’t be burning him out,” and then 24 hours later _________ ___________ was out with a knee injury that Woodson called “day-to-day” for weeks, then months. The Knicks are infamous for their distrust & deceiving of the press, but Woodson takes it beyond merely lying. He’s like the Curse of Montezuma. If Mike Woodson says you’re doing good health-wise, that means you have osteo-leprosy and any second now you’re going to die an agonizing, floppy, withering death.

Woodson gets a lot of credit whenever JR Smith does well. So, now that JR’s reverted to bad JR, where is Woodson’s supposed miracle touch? Maybe it’d have served Smith and the team better if Woodson had expressed anger for Smith’s stupid elbow that turned the Celtics funeral march into a Lazarus pit. Instead, the Knicks en masse parroted the transparent lie that Smith was just making a “basketball play,” as if 8-year olds around the world are creating space by whipping ‘bows. Before Game 5, Smith was just too too cool with the press, saying the Knicks already would have won the series and he’d be out golfing if not for his suspension—as if, somehow, the man and the suspension have nothing to do with each other. Then Smith comes out and misses his first 10 shots.

Does Woodson pull an obviously cold Smith? Does he give Chris Copeland some playing time? With Jason Kidd unable or unwilling to get a shot off, does Woodson go back to Iman Shumpert, one of the few Knicks to raise his game in this series?  Why the hell is Steve Novak pulled 30 seconds after hitting a jumper, then never brought back into a game the Knicks were losing because nobody could hit a shot? You know who hits shots? Novak. Copeland. Shumpert, of late.

So, Woodson sticks with Smith.

A few days after patting themselves on the back for their veteran savvy, veteran Kenyon Martin leads the Knicks to the cute fashion conclusion that they will all wear black, because the Celtics are ready for their funeral. Get it? Ha. I understand young teams doing this, teams that haven’t had any success. The 1989 Knicks, led by modern-day basketball purist Mark Jackson, busted out brooms after sweeping the 76ers. I don’t understand a team made up of so many veterans that 35-year old Kenyon Martin is actually not one of the oldheads behaving like college freshmen.

I have not seen anything from Woodson to inspire confidence. I think the Knicks will win the series. I think they’ll win tomorrow. I think they’ll win because I think they’re the better team, and because for some reason the equally-veteran-savvy-yet-equally-stupid Celtics decided it’d be smart to piss off Carmelo Anthony after the game, and now they get to deal with what should be Super Melo in Game 6. But I didn’t agree with the Knicks just handing Woodson the full-time job last year instead of interviewing SOMEbody else, ANYbody else, with a better record of success than Woodson.

Every Knick year—and this has been the brightest year since 2000—is tinted by the taint of the owner and the culture he accrues. Dolan is a disciple of disloyalty. Basketball boils down to trust. I don’t trust Mike Woodson.

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